Drive Home Reading

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This activity is the advanced version of an alphabet parking lot I made for Travis back when he was in pre-school! Now he’s fast learning his sight words in Kindergarten, and I was so proud watching him drive up to the “parking spaces” I created today.

Lay out a long sheet of craft paper and draw rectangular parking spaces. I filled the spaces with common sight words, using only about ten words to start. I set out an assortment of Travis’s cars and called him over.

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“I love this game!” he said, remembering the alphabet version. I took over as the announcer, asking, “Can the orange car drive to the parking spot that says ‘in’ please,” and so on.

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It only took him a moment to scan through and find each word, which showed me he’s growing quite comfortable with these sight words.

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Of course we needed to park a silly Lego in the final space.

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He loved it so much, he immediately asked, “Can we play again!” So I quickly created a second parking lot adjacent to our first.

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He very seriously drove all the cars over. I added a few slightly tougher words, now, including “down” and “here”. That didn’t slow Travis down here in the slightest!

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Soon every car was parked. He even wanted a third round, which I didn’t have time for! I promised him a new lot, soon.

Make Your Own Pinata

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Travis has been learning about birthday traditions around the world, and one that especially intrigued him was the Mexican pinata. It seemed like a fun idea to make our own!

Full disclosure: we worked with materials from a kit, but if you’re doing this craft completely DIY, you’ll need to cut two equal-sized circles from cardboard, as well as a third strip of cardboard to be the loop between them. Tape the three pieces together, leaving a slot through which you can later add candy or other treats.

Cut strips of yellow paper, and then snip them half-way up to make fringe. Travis liked the challenge of this step.

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Now begin gluing the strips onto the cardboard base, working from the bottom up.

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Ours wasn’t perfect, but soon we had a fringed yellow face!

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We added fun details like sunglasses and a smile cut from additional colored paper. Tape a string to the top of the pinata and loop it onto a stick. I held the stick aloft, while Travis took a swing!

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For extra authenticity, kids can swing blindfolded.

If you don’t have candy, fill the inside of the pinata with fun confetti or even pom poms. Travis was ecstatic once the pinata had a tear and the pom poms rained down.

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How To… Help Yourself Feel Better

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Highlights magazine appears to have a new feature, a “How To…” page each month explaining how to do anything ranging from the fun (snow forts!) to the practical. I loved this month’s tips on how kids can make themselves feel better, which made for a nice pause with Travis.

We ran through three techniques kids can use to calm down. First up: Bubble Breaths. The idea here is breathe in through your nose, then out as if blowing a big bubble. He loved practicing this one!

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Next we practiced The Squeezer (as seen at the top of this post). Clench fists for a count of 10, then release and count to 10. Repeat as needed.

Finally, we discussed the tactic of Watch It Go, which involves imagining a cloud full of upset feelings. The cloud fades away as you count backwards from 10, until at 0 it disappears.

As an added bonus, we made a list of things Travis likes about himself or is good at.

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What a nice self-esteem booster for him! He and I brainstormed ways he can help friends feel better, too. Overall, this activity was quite the mental health break. Thanks Highlights!

Fairy Bread

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If children could invent a snack, Fairy Bread would probably be it. This treat, apparently popular at birthday parties in Australia, sure made our after-school snack feel like a treat!

Spread Earth Balance butter on slices of white bread. Trim off the crusts.

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Sprinkle with rainbow sprinkles to taste, then cut into triangles. I prepared the first slice for Travis, but let him be in charge of the sprinkles for the second.

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Clearly this indulgence is meant to be a once-in-a-while treat, but it sure put a big smile on his face today!

Knight Light

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Travis still complains of bad dreams, though we’ve tried everything from worry dolls to dream catchers to fancy night lights to make his room feel safe and cozy at night. The fun play on words earned a laugh when we spotted this craft in Highlights magazine, so it was worth a try to see if Sir Lights-a-Lot can guard against bad dreams!

Cut gray cardstock to size so that it fits around an empty oatmeal container. Glue on and let dry. Cut a hole through the paper and container once the glue is set.

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Cut a visor shape and a feather plume shape from additional cardstock. We used a fun bright orange for the feather! Glue these onto the container. (Alternatively, poke two brads through the visor to attach over the hole).

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Attach wiggle eyes to the ends of curled black pipe cleaners and glue on so they dangle down and show through the visor. This step was a bit tricky, and I found it was easiest to use hot glue.

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We added a few lines of blue washi tape for a decorative finish. What a brave knight!

Come nighttime, we inserted a tea light and set him to keep watch.

Animal Puppet Craft Challenge

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More and more I’m watching Travis take the lead when it comes to the monthly craft challenge in his Highlights magazine. This morning, I presented him with an empty paper towel tube, a few craft sticks, and construction paper, with the challenge to make an animal puppet. It didn’t take him long to get creative!

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He could immediately see how the tube would work as the body. Whereas I had envisioned the sticks only as a handle for a puppet, Travis figured his animal would need arms. As soon as he held the sticks out to the side of the tube, he declared, “A bird!”

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Now we knew we needed construction paper “feathers” for the wings.

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I helped him cut these out, along with a head and beak.

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A second little winged creature looked a bit different without the circle face. Travis declared this one was a bat! He couldn’t wait for them to dry so he could flap his puppets around.


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What animal will your kid come up with using only these materials? Please share in the comments!

Ooey-Gluey Colors

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It’s not often that I find an art project for my 5-year-old that feels refreshingly new. This artsy idea from Highlights magazine had definite goo factor that appealed to him!

First, drip school glue all over the clear acrylic cover from an empty photo frame. We used an 8×10 frame for maximum work space.

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Drip food coloring over the glue, ideally with some restraint, although Travis loved making big puddles of color.

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Finally, use a paintbrush to smear it all together.

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The colors will swirl and mix in neat ways and make little bubbles on the acrylic. This is a fun chance to experiment with different brushstrokes.

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Let dry completely, then insert back into the photo frame (gooey side in) for instant art. These look particular pretty when the sun hits them through a window, acting almost like a suncatcher.

Cactus Toss

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This game is sure to get laughs from your kids, and is a fun craft to boot!

Start by drawing two cactus shapes on green poster board, about 1 foot high. Older kids will have fun drawing these on their own; I did this part for Travis, who declared my cactus “clumsy”, which I thought was just about the best description in the world.

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Decorate the cactus with paint markers. I helped Travis think about how we could depict spikes and thorns, with lots of crosses and slash marks.

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Make a slit in the bottom of one cactus half and a slit in the top of the other so they can slot together. Add point values to each arm of the cactus, and glue pom poms on top.

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Time to play! To set up the cactus, place it in a clay dish. We added sand and rocks for desert authenticity.

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Twist pipe cleaners into circles for your playing pieces. I was yellow and Travis was red. Here’s the wind up…

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…and the toss!

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First player to 10 points wins. Travis was so proud when he hooked a 5 pointer on the top!


Chocolate-Eating Game

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Travis learned about this hilarious game from his latest Highlights magazine, traditionally played at birthdays in Germany. It sounded so silly and fun we had to give it a try just for an after-school snack!

If you’re playing with multiple players, you’ll need a dice. Anyone who rolls a 6 quickly puts on a hat, mittens, and scarf, and tries to unwrap a chocolate bar with a knife and fork. The next player to roll a 6 takes that first person’s turn, and if the bar is unwrapped, then whoever rolls a 6 now gets to eat the chocolate with a knife and fork. Silly, right?

Because it was just me and Travis, we took turns donning all the winter gear and working at the wrapper with the utensils.

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Mommy got us in! Time to fork into our chocolate.

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Whoever manages to eat the most chocolate wins, of course! I can see this being just delicious to play with a batch of kids at a party.

Flashlight Word Game

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Travis can make his way through a few early phonics books, and although I’m not quite ready to call him a “reader”, I know he’s on the cusp. This cute bedtime game can hopefully tip him towards that edge!

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I wrote out a list of sight words on brightly colored construction paper, and taped them in a pattern along our playroom wall. (Note: you can also make this an “upstairs” game for right before bed, but since I knew we’d want to play after baby sister was asleep, I kept the game downstairs).

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There are several ways we played the game, all of which boost Travis’s sight reading! In the first version, I shined the flashlight on a word and he had to read it.

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Then it was his turn to challenge mommy! He shined the light, and laughed if I pretended to have a hard time with a word.

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For extra literacy fun, have your child first read the word, then put it in a full sentence. This is great for sight words like ‘for’ and ‘four’, or ‘two’ and ‘to’.

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Finally, you can play a sort of reverse version, calling out a word and then having your child find it with the flashlight.

Little sibs might want to play, too, and can look for letters instead of reading full words!